Energy Drinks - Hype, Helpful, or Harmful?
Energy drinks are the latest trend in the beverage industry. First there
were sodas, then diet sodas, and now energy drinks. Don’t be fooled--
they are really just sodas with larger doses of caffeine! Claims that
they improve athletic performance, stamina, and mental alertness are simply
clever marketing ploys. Caffeine is categorized as a stimulant, however,
the effects vary greatly among people, and the body develops a tolerance
to it (i.e., over time, it will take larger quantities to achieve the
desired effect). It is also important to know that caffeine in excessive
amounts can be lethal. Many energy drinks do not reveal the amount of
caffeine contained. Some brands have been shown to contain total quantities
of caffeine in excess of 500mg, which is more than 14 cans of regularly
One reason to be aware that energy drinks are nothing more than high-caffeine
sodas is that sodas offer no nutritional value. One might think that at
least it’s liquid, so it can be considered hydrating – but
in fact, they do the opposite. The caffeine causes increased urination
and, therefore, can potentially lead to dehydration. Dehydration is an
important health concern as it can lead to death in severe cases. Water
is sufficient and ideal for rehydrating in the majority of situations.
However, if the athlete is competing at a high level or there are other
factors (e.g., excessive heat), then sports drinks containing some carbohydrates
and electrolytes are important for proper hydration. Some examples of
such sports drinks are Gatorade and Powerade.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages caffeine for children and
adolescents. The health risks of caffeine include: difficulty sleeping,
anxiety, and abnormal heart rhythms, among other adverse effects. These
adverse effects can be considerably exacerbated in certain circumstances,
such as dehydration, combination with other caffeine-containing substances,
and alcohol use.
If you are constantly feeling tired or are looking to increase your energy,
you should make an appointment with your doctor to investigate possible
causes of your symptoms and devise a healthy, safe plan for boosting your energy.
Clinical Report--Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents:
Are They Appropriate? COMMITTEE ON NUTRITION AND THE COUNCIL ON SPORTS
MEDICINE AND FITNESS DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-0965
Pediatrics; originally published online May 29, 2011;